By now you’ll know I am a bit of an experimenter! I am trying to find the best software to turn some of my photo books into flipbooks for viewing online. This one is from Yumpu. This is the free version. It was really easy to do but the view is very small and I don’t see a way of making it bigger. At present you can’t read the text in the stories but they are in this blog.
I had trouble loading it from my phone.
Sometimes this link works and sometimes it doesn’t! Not much of an experiment was it!
Australians know about travelling. We don’t hesitate to drive 100km to get to a friend’s house. It’s just what you do. We get on a plane and fly all day just to go on holidays.
“You came all this way?” people will ask you. We can’t get out of the country unless we do! It’s 4 hours from Sydney to Perth. It’s a 22 hour flight to Israel (plus layovers or waits at the airport).
Compared to Australia, Israel is a very small place. The total length from north to south is 424 kilometres. My mum’s place is 635 km away and we still live in the same state. At its widest, Israel is 114 km – that’s only 2 km more than from my place in Wollongong to Penrith; one of Sydney’s western suburbs. At its narrowest point its only 15km across – I ran that far a few months ago in a fun run!
The total area of Israel is 20,770 km2 compared to 7,692,000 km2. More than 370 Israels would fit inside Australia. It’s nearly three times smaller than Tasmania.
It may be small but compared to Australia, it’s crowded. The average population density is 385 people per km2 compared to 3.1 people per km2 in Australia. 
On one of my visits, I hired a car and drove with my daughter and her family from Tel Aviv up to Katzrin in the Golan Heights via Tsfat. It’s the very top of Israel; a little bit further and you’d need a passport!
Katzrin (Qatsrin) is 177 km north of Tel Aviv. When you look it up on Google Maps it’s surrounded by a whole bunch of dotted lines that chart the evolution of the border disputes between Israel and Syria. It is very close to both the Syrian and Lebanese borders. I have to admit I was a bit nervous about going there. My phone was definitely nervous with its frequent declaration of changing billing zones: “Welcome to Syria call costs are” … and then a few metres further “Welcome to Lebanon!” “Welcome to Israel…
After you have been in Israel for a while you get used to seeing soldiers. One of the first things I noticed about the soldiers in Katzrin, was how old they were. They were real soldiers, not conscripts with training guns. They had real guns, they were not just doing their three years national service. The other thing I noticed was a large number of people who looked like they were from the Pacific Islands. They were little out of place, but it didn’t take long to figure out that they were the ones who were driving around in the UN jeeps. The Peace Keeping Observers.
I had a niggling feeling of discomfort. What was I doing less than 15 km from the Syrian border while there was a fair bit of activity going on?
I was sight-seeing and hiking that’s what! We had come “all” this way to take a walk through the Giliboon Nature Reserve, a popular walking destination for locals, just a few kilometres out of the town of Kaztrin.
We began the trek by walking past mine fields; (ummm… ok… we’ll just stay on this side of the fence shall we) and then carried on to bombed out concrete bunkers that remained after the Six Day War between Syria and Israel. The bullet holes and graffiti competing for my attention with imported gum trees making the whole scene slightly surreal by reminding me of home.
The grey sky threatened rain and the smell of eucalyptus hung in the cold air. The track spread out to reveal an ancient Talmudic Village –The Dvora Village. The age of the village is disputed, but some estimates put it at 5000 years and although the basalt stones lay around in unorganized piles after many earthquakes, there was enough order to get the sense of a once thriving settlement. A grind stone here, a drying oven there. Cattle wander about, picking their way carefully through the rocks, timid and curious at the same time.
The colours were great. A low, dark, foreboding sky with bright yellow lichen clinging to the stones. We stopped and balanced on the rocks to eat a snack and I remarked that if we were in Australia, all this would be fenced off; either to protect the site or to protect the tourists. Here, the only hint of regulation was a single chain across a doorway and a rusty sign that said something along the lines of “Don’t climb the wall, it will probably fall and you’ll get hurt.”
The loop track is only 4 km but as we slowly slushed our way through mud, our shoes became weighed down by several kilograms of sticky black clay. We made fun of our pancaked boots as they grew to gigantic proportions. We passed waterfalls, land crabs and native cyclamens growing in the crevices.
The metal ladders and carved footholds added a level of difficulty to the walk, especially with a baby in a backpack. The most intriguing sight took my scientific mind a while to work out. At first, I thought I was staring at a strange geological formation until I realised it was a rock covered in thousands of pieces of chewing gum!
In summer, the pools at the base of the Dvora Falls are popular swimming holes. We didn’t swim on this dreary January day but I marvelled at how peaceful it was despite the remnants of past wars all around us.
It was quiet.
Strangely quiet and it registered that there were no birds calling. No raucous cockatoos, no twittering blue wrens. I guess the birds had flown south and I made one more mental note of how different my daughter’s adopted home was to my own.
 just as a point of interest Israel is the 35th most populated country on a list of 233 and Australia 227th. The most populated is Monaco at 25,718 people per km2!! But that’s getting a bit close too a Pinterest vortex!
First time visitors to Israel may be surprised to learn that things pretty much close down on Friday afternoon through to Saturday evening. While not all Israelis are observant Jews, the retail trade for the most part keeps Shabbat. You will, however, find many restaurants and cafes open. Just don’t expect to do any shopping or use public transport. Think of Sydney in the late 1960’s when you had to rush up to Woollies before 12 on a Saturday!
The roads are quiet with less traffic and the din of traffic abates. The streets are less hectic, and everything is slow and peaceful. It might be quiet but if you are into people watching head down to the Shlomo Lahat Promenade which snakes along the Mediterranean coast for a few kilometres from Tel Aviv Port down to Old Jaffa in the south. There is a good choice of eateries and plastic lounge seats on the sand where you can enjoy a beer or glass of wine.
I spent almost an entire day walking along the Promenade last week and had a great time! I enjoyed classical music, dancing, singing and watching people exercise outdoors.
Joggers and power walkers pound down the pavement dodging bike riders. There is a dedicated bike track,although in some of the more narrow sections, it gets a bit tight so you need to keep an eye out.
Surfboards and paddle boards are available for hire, but for an Aussie, the surf was not much to write home about. Speaking of surfing, the sand on the beach is pretty good. Pale gold- grey and small grain size so comfortable on the feet but NOT squeaky! There were people out surfing (in wet suits) but no swimmers. According to the signs, swimming is prohibited.
The Leonardo Art /Hotel building (a disused shopping mall??) which straddles a road has some interesting street art.
The dancing was fascinating. Tel Aviv’s answer to boot scooting. A large group of more than 100 people dancing in a circle to traditional folk tunes. I asked a woman in the crowd and she told me it happens every Saturday. Some come alone, some in groups or with their partner.
There is exercise equipment, a swimming pool and plenty of space for beach volley ball (mostly younger people) or a version of noisy tennis with hard rackets and a small ball (Mostly older people).
These photos show some of the fun from that day. I would give it a 10 out of 10 for a cheap day out depending on how much you stop and eat and drink. Allow yourself three hours at least. Not so great on a cold, windy wet day but you could visit the Museums that are open if the weather is nasty!
 Have a look at this blog post for a summary of what is an isn’t open on Shabbat. It was written in April 2017 but seems a good summary based on my own experience. http://tlvxp.com/eng/shabbat
For those of you who have been reading my previous posts you would already know that I live in Australia and that I am divorced. You know my only daughter lives in Israel and that my only grandson lives there too. (Of course!) For the last 3 1/2 weeks I have been in Israel doing heavy duty Grandma time.
Having only parented once myself it’s easy to forget how small the life of a two year old is. My usual travelling day involves walking at least 25km and taking 750 photos. I stop and eat when I want and generally just live the life of a travelling photographer.
Not on the Grandma trips! My day consists of getting up early. Early enough to be the first up and then a 5km run, back in time for the waking family. We make porridge. We watch some youTube cartoons. We take 45 minutes to walk to the corner shop and stop and look at every single stick along the way. From the 4th floor window we watch with great interest and a running commentary, the truck empty the big garbage bins. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we go “riding in the car” to take mum to Uni. We spend the whole day exploring Bar Ilan University and have worked out where all the easily accessible powerpoints are, where the best wifi is and which of the cafes sells the best coffee at the best price.
We play in fountains and chase the birds. We just do what Ahu wants to do. It’s in sharp contrast to what fills my day back home. Where my time is scheduled down to the half-hour. The life where I run two calendars. The work one and the “me” one. Where I have to be sensible and in charge, the 2IC of a workplace with nearly 1000 inhabitants. Where I spend time writing and processing the photos I have taken. Here in Israel I am just “gram-ma” and my job is much simpler. We literally stop to sniff the roses.
I remember as a 30 year old mother, I would also schedule my day to the nth degree. I would wait for nap times to get the million things I “needed” to do, done. I was desperate to get back the “real” world of work and thought my life was not complete without a paid job. I was not keeping up my end of the “sisterhood” bargain being a stay at home mum. I returned to work when my daughter was 18 months old. My (then) husband stepped up and became a stay at home dad. This was a groundbreaking move at the time. It allowed him to study and complete a Bachelor’s degree, then Honours and finally a PhD. We were trailblazers and our friends and family thought we were crazy.
I look back now and regret my impatience. I missed a lot. Now even though there IS still a million things I could be doing – Grandmas don’t, at least not when they’ve clocked on for Grandma. Duty. I marvel at how Ahu learns new words everyday. He is eager to chatter and share his ideas. He explores his world with precise and deliberate actions.
In the 25 years that have passed since my baby was a baby, the women’s movement has moved on – a little. Now the sisterhood lets you have a bit more flexibility. You don’t have to be a super-mum if you choose not to be. You can stay at home, work part time if you want. (If you can) Stay at home dads are more common and parental leave can support that. We still have a long way to go. On top of that, the reality is that our consumerist lifestyle means that both parents have to work to be able to pay the bills and children, although loved and desired, need to fit into the hectic schedule of the grown ups.
If I had my time again I don’t know I would do parenting any differently. I think I did the best I could at the time. My goal now is to the do the grandparenting right. Not Grand-parent over my daughter’s parenting. Not quibble about how I would have done things. Not to give advice where it’s not wanted.
I can take this time to recharge my own batteries. And look inside and think. For this short period of time, the the most important decisions are what picture book to read, and making sure little Ahu knows the Australian word for everything in his world!
(Once again this post prepared on my iPad so the photos are a bit wonky. Back to normal programming next week! No photos of Ahu as he doesn’t do facebook/blogs)
Tel Aviv is a vibrant world city with nightclubs, fine dining and beaches. There are shopping malls and chains stores Iike you will find in nearly every big city. The same marketing and the same high turnover fashion. Hairdressers and shoe shops abound.
If you’d like something a little different, have a look at the old flea market in Yafo (Jaffa). It’s a couple of kilometres south from the city centre right on the Mediterranean coast. Jaffa is the oldest continuously used port. It has a rich history.
From the city’s Central Bus Station get onto Shalma Road and follow it to the end. Or if you are coming from the main shopping district just follow the promenade along the beach and head towards the clock tower which will be in the distance. If you get thirsty there are a few places to stop and have a beer on the sand as well as some public toilets if you go this way.
The markets is a mix of dodgy dross that you could buy at any $2 shop as well as intriguing and amazing collections of old wares. There are also a number of restaurant and catering equipment suppliers in the mix too. On its outer borders are some high end couture and bridal wear stores.
As well as the little shops there is an open market where people come and “declutter”. There are some cafes and eateries to keep you fueled. There are also plenty of photographers!
It well worth a visit and you should allow 2- 3 hours to wander around in addition to the walk to get there.
This month I am visiting my daughter who lives in an apartment in Be’er Sheva, south of Tel Aviv. While individual living standards will vary widely in any country, Israel would be considered a “first world” country. You can drink the water straight from the tap. You can turn the lights on with the flick of a switch and there is hot water, really hot water as it turns out. The solar heated water can be boosted with a ‘boiler’ for a quick-heat option in the morning or when it’s cloudy. In the absence of a thermometer, I am guessing the water comes out at around 70C – 80C. No temperature limiters here.
The council collects the garbage regularly. Apartments don’t have individual bins but rather one large community bin and recycling facilities shared by 5 or so apartment complexes. I am not sure what happens for stand alone houses. One positive of this system is that you don’t have a big line up of separate Sulo bins clogging up the roadways.
The downside is that rubbish that does not fit into the big pit garbages, like building waste, green waste etc is piled up all around them in the street until it is collected. These piles are very tempting, dangerous playgrounds for my grandson who finds it hard to resist the bits and pieces of wood, wires and broken windows, setting this grandma into a tiz of “be carefuls” “watch outs” “Oh no – don’t play with that!!!!!….(broken fluorescent tube)”
The streets are swept each morning, but litter abounds, as does dog poo! A walk in the evening is an obstacle course as you navigate around the poopy piles. No poles with plastic doggy-doo bags are provided and it would seem people do not bring their own pooper scoopers. Despite the rubbish, I have yet to see a rat or a cockroach. It would seem the street cats do a very good job of keeping away these pests.
Australia has a definite “nanny state” feel that is absent in Israel. It’s difficult for an outsider like me to work out whether there are less rules and requirements or if they are just not enforced. The best evidence of this is seen in the very different approach to building safety. Electrical wires and telephone cables festoon the outsides of most apartment buildings and make things look “interesting” and to be frank, dangerous.
Bike helmets for push bike riders appear optional, even for children Sticking to the speed limit and allowing adequate room to change lanes is very optional and apparently inconvenient! You get tooted in the slow lane even if you are sticking to the 120 kph speed limit! Heavy rain does, however, garner some respect with drivers slowing down to 80 and using their hazard lights. (Thankfully!)
Shopkeepers are direct and to the point. Their manner seems abrupt and terse if you are used to the “have a nice day” attitude we get in Australia. Don’t expect service with a smile – it’s not part of the culture. They are not intentionally rude it’s just how it’s done here. It’s a pleasant change to be able to walk around a shop and not be hovered over while you repeatedly declare yourself to be “Just looking thanks”. On the other hand, when you have decided to make a purchase it would be nice not to wait while they finish their phone call or chat with their fellow workers.
Australia is too regulated with many safety decisions taken out of the hands of its citizens. For example, in NSW, hot water heaters MUST be limited to 55C. If you want hotter water for a special purpose you’ll need to boil it in the kettle. Hence, the onus for safety is taken away from the person using the water. If you know the water is hot you should be careful when you use it – not expect the government to take responsibility of every aspect of your life. It abrogates our personal responsibility to keep ourselves and our families safe.
This map, although nearly 15 years old shows a big difference between the rate of accidental childhood injuries in different countries. Israel is in the +45 per 100000 category. Australia at the other end. of the scale.
Perhaps we do need the safety net?
Where is the answer?
In my opinion, Israel could do with a few more by-laws and regulations and Australia could do with less. People could clean up after themselves and their dogs. The combination of fast drivers and helmetless kids worries me. Australians should take more responsibility for themselves.
The answer, like with most things lies somewhere in between.
(Prepared on my iPad- sorry if the photos turn out skewiff!)
The ticket, successfully purchased from the Hebrew speaking vending machine, was tucked into my pocket. A symbol of my growing ability to work out what I needed to do to get around this ancient limestone city. I stood and waited with the others at the top of Jaffa Street near City Hall. The Old City at my back, the Coffix store in front with its cheap coffee in paper cups like any other world city.
The sleek tram pulls in and stops. Score! I am standing in line with the door and like any good Australian I stand aside in readiness to get on; ready to wait politely for the passengers to get off before I step aboard and take my place.
Wait: what’s this? PUSH! SHOVE! and NO “excuse me’s”!
The scene quickly turns into a thrashing melee inefficiently entering AND exiting the carriage simultaneously! An old lady gets left on the tram. A shout; the doors re-open, and she gets off.
Me? Well I am still standing on the road. Backpack askew, confidence dented and clearly not on the tram!
Uh hah… so this is how it is…
The trams are frequent, so next time, I am better prepared. Elbows out, head down I barrel my way on and negotiate a place where I can hang onto the overhead strap and sway in unison with everyone else like slow dancing zombies, jerking and writhing without much rhythm.
The trams in Jerusalem run on time. They are clean and modern, but forget your Anglo-centric idea of queuing!
It ain’t gonna happen!
Mind you there is no ill humour, no nastiness, just a sense of looking after yourself. At the same time the mum with the double-decker stroller and the three ambulant kids is at a disadvantage and she gets some help from the crowd.
My destination is only three stops away so I try to stay close to the door but at each stop I get pushed further and further into the tram. At Mehane Yehuda; I squeeze through, under, over and around the throng and pop out the doors like a broad bean being squeezed out of its shell. My backpack is stuck between two passengers but it gets propelled forward with some helpful arms. I straighten up and remind myself that if everything is like home why bother leaving the house!
Yehuda Market is a busy place. When you add to this the need to shop, get home (probably on public transport), have the house tidy, the next four meals prepared, candles lit and prayers started all before sundown and you have just elevated it to a mega-busy place! A balagan in fact!
This is Yehuda Market on Fridays. While not everyone in Jerusalem is an observant Jew, many are and the need to get all the chores done before Shabbat starts is a mood changing event. Many of the stall holders must also finish their business in time to get home for their own Shabbat preparations. No time for leisurely shopping! Think grab and run!
The market is literally and figuratively a melting pot of culture and religion. Black-capped and hatted Haredi mix with bare-fleshed tattooed youth. Old and young haggling over the price of a whole salmon. Spice merchants vie for your attention with their great bowls of saffron, turmeric and paprika.
The abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables makes a colourful display, punctuated by wisps of malodourous reminders of the fish, meat and rotting scraps that are smeared on the ancient floors. The fans on the tent-like roof don’t even bother to try to move the air.
The foods on display may be familiar or a total mystery; the unintelligible labels not helping your decision. Is this an herb or tea? Is this pastry dessert or savoury? How do you order coffee? How do I know if that sign says NIS150 per kilo or per 100 g? This, as it turns out, is a very important distinction!
After several hours and a thousand images later, I have only bought a few items. Some herbal tea with chunky bits of dried fruit that I purchased from the nice young man who chatted to me in good English but who charged me ten times the price, some fruit, olives, bread and cheese.
A fitting lunch topped off with a freshly squeezed pomegranate juice before walking back to my apartment in the German Quarter. A good 3 ½ km walk, but with the shops beginning to close and the streets emptying it was a pleasant way to enjoy the afternoon. I was in no hurry even if everyone else was.
Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 right next to the ancient city of Jaffa (Yafo), which is the oldest continuously occupied working port in the world. In 2016, there were as many car parks as disco bars. Fifty thousand people accessed the free city wi-fi in public spaces (including me!) Ninety-one percent of the city’s 418,600 residents were Jewish. There were 7000 hotel rooms. And nearly every surface that can been drawn on hosts some amazing art.
If you have read my other posts you have perhaps figured by now, that my daughter lives in Israel. She moved from Australia about 4 years ago and at present is living just outside of Tel Aviv.
I have been to visit five times and each time I go; I say on my return to God’s own country (Wollongong); “it’s a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there”.
But truth be told, I think I could live in Tel Aviv.
One of the reasons being; the amazing street art. It is witty, funny and often poignant. I have wondered if it was sanctioned or simply tolerated but on reading the city’s official website, I am thinking it is in fact, sanctioned and perhaps even encouraged.
Tel Aviv has an official “brand” and the municipal council lists the brand’s values as:
PLURALISM – Multi-culturalism, accepting and promoting those who are different.
OPEN – A city that believes that it will become a better place if everyone will be able to be who they truly are.
FREEDOM – Freedom of thought, of expression, of choice and of creativity. Above all: the freedom to be yourself.
INNOVATION – A city that leads in all fields shaping the face of Israeli society.
URBAN CREATIVE ENERGY -The place where everyone can express themselves.
The urban creative energy is evident in the street art. It is EVERYWHERE. I have spent several days playing “Search for Sened”.
For me, looking for the cute, cubic cartoon characters that are only about 10 cm high is better fun than Pokemon Go! Often in out-of-the way places they pop-up unexpectedly, but once you have your eye in, you see them everywhere.
The street art is truly art – well executed, well planned and colourful. There seems to be very little mindless graffiti or tagging for tagging’s sake. I would recommend a walking tour. Have a look here for a suggested itinerary.
After a while you will begin to recognise particular artist’s styles.
Don’t be afraid to head down some darkened corridors – you can find some great work there too.
It is an ever changing canvas, although I have never seen anyone actually doing the work. My next goal will be to find an “artist” at work.
The bus was crowded with no empty seats. I logged into the free on-board wi-fi and got ready for a relaxing trip. Four hours north and I would be in the mystical city of Tsfat, headquarters of the Kabbalah movement. My quietude was shattered when I noticed the young conscript across the aisle. He was kitted out in his khaki uniform and like all conscripts in Israel, he carried a rather large gun. The rather large gun was draped across his knee and the barrel was pointed straight at me. He had fallen asleep very soon after he had sat down. I can’t say I blamed him. The sun was shining through the window; it was warm and cosy. If I didn’t have a gun pointed at my right knee I would have been asleep too! His hands were on rifle butt and his finger was on the trigger. I don’t know much about guns but I knew enough to know that at this distance, if it did go off, it would not end well for me.
As a high school science teacher, I often hear the bored taunt of students asking, “Are we ever going to use this in real life?” My standard answer – “You never know what you need to know!” was suddenly vindicated
A wooden block with mass M = 3 kg is lying on a horizontal table. It is hit by a bullet with mass m = 5 g which moves horizontally. The bullet remains in the block after colliding with it. The block moves on the table a distance d = 25 cm. The coefficient of kinetic friction μk = 0.2. Find the starting speed of the bullet.
Scrap that…Let’s change it a little to make it more relevant to today’s problem.
A woman with mass M = 60kg is sitting 0.5 m from a rifle which fires a 5.00g bullet moving at an angle of 32o. The bullet remains in the woman after colliding with her.
Calculate (to the correct number of significant figures) the following:
a) the amplitude and duration of the woman’s scream and
b) Will her travel insurance cover the medivac?
(Include all units and working out.)
As a problem-solver, I quickly developed a strategy to avoid being knee-capped and arranged myself in a very elegant yoga pose which I estimated would avoid the straight shot. Half-squatting elephant with sideward fold would describe it nicely. The man sitting next to me looked on with quiet amusement and buried his face in his book. I smiled sheepishly but held my position. I began to feel a little sorry for the person in front of me who would end up with a bullet in the backside when it ripped through the back of their chair.
I had been sitting like this for about an hour. My back was beginning to cramp. Thankfully soldier-boy moved a little, slumping further into his seat with a very casual attitude. Too casual for my liking! I quickly shifted my limbs into the more advanced position of seated mallard.
Another thirty minutes passed. He opened his eyes and looked sleepily out the window, all the while keeping his finger at the ready. I reasoned this must be part of their training, to be ever alert, even when asleep. After all, attacks on buses by terrorists are common in Israel.
With his next sleepy move, the barrel pointed a little upwards – now in line with my heart. I stopped breathing. It was then I noticed the small, red plastic plug that was filling the end of the barrel. The air escaped from my lungs with the same force as the bullet I had been trying to avoid. The gun was not operable. It was a training weapon.
For the remainder of the journey, I adopted a new pose – embarrassed reclining puppy.